Parkinson’s Disease

Google Glass for people with Parkinson’s

Google_Glass_PD001-1Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurological condition affecting up to 10 million people worldwide. It manifests itself in motor symptoms including rigidity, tremor and bradykinesia, or slowness of movement. These affect an individuals balance, gait, arm and facial movements.  In this project we are collaborating with people with Parkinson’s to explore how Google’s Glass technology can be used as a platform for to help these individuals manage their condition. This device incorporates a miniature computer, a micro-display and contains sensors that measure head and eye movements, a microphone for ambient sound pickup, and a front-facing camera. Most importantly, it holds this in the form of a small spectacle-like design – and as a consumer product, it will likely be on the market in the next few years.

We are involving people with Parkinson’s as ‘Glass Explorers’ in this project: we are holding co-design workshops with groups, giving participants a Glass to take home for short periods of time and use in their everyday life, and capturing their experiences with this new technology. We have published a paper on our initial findings, which won a Best Paper award at the 2014 ACM Human Factors in Computing Systems conference. In the paper we highlighted generally positive responses to Glass as a device that instils confidence and safety in our participants when wearing it out and about. At the same time, participants have raised concerns about the potential for the technology to reaffirm dependency on others and stigmatise those who wear it, especially as it is still seen to be an unusual and ‘niche’ product. We are now exploring the ways in which aspects of the Glass can be redesigned and repackaged so as to remove these potential barriers to use.

We are now developing a range of new applications to be trialled by our participants, which will provide cues to aid them in speaking loudly, to walk at a comfortable pace, and to help their balance. We are also co-designing a number of other applications with those who have used the Glass for extended periods of time, looking at new ways for participants to monitor and track changes in their condition over time.

Date: August 2013 –

Funding: Google Glass Research Award

Researchers: Patrick Olivier, Roisin McNaney, John Vines, Ivan Poliakov, Pengfei Zhang.

Collaborators: Daniel Roggen (University of Sussex).

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Activity Recognition to Improve Motor Performance in Parkinson’s Disease

Through sensors worn on the body or embedded into objects of daily use we can infer the activities performed by a subject. Extracting the characteristics of the data collected by these sensors, i.e. how these activities were performed, would be beneficial to a variety of applications, such as rehabilitation, pain therapy, sports and professional training in tool usage, e.g. for mechanics among others. Information about the development of motor performances and whether there is an improvement or decline over time can be very useful, particularly in medicine and specifically in degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease, where an assessment of a decline in motor ability is a common diagnostic tool. So far, however, relatively little work has been invested into further, detailed analysis of daily activities.

In this project we aimed to develop a method that could be used to assess the efficiency of motion, one of the properties of motor skill. This method could be applied for people with degenerative conditions that have a significant impact on motor abilities, such as Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia. Our method for measuring motor efficiency was based on the energy distribution in Principal Component Analysis (PCA) and we used it to infer a single, normalised metric that was intimately linked to signal complexity and allowed comparison of (subject-specific) time-series. We evaluated the approach on artificially distorted signals and applied it to a simple kitchen task to show its applicability to real-life data streams.

Date: Oct 2010 – Aug 2011

Funding: EPSRC: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (KTA) £51,704

Researchers: Patrick Olivier (PI). Richard Walker – Institue of Health & Society, Nick Miller – School of Education, Communication, and Language Sciences, Lynn Rochester – Institute of Aeging & Health (CIs). Roisin McNaney, Karim LadhaThomas Ploetz, Nils Hammerla, Dan Jackson.

Quantifying Human Motion for Medical Applications

Often, high accuracy activity recognition can be performed using relatively simple methods, such as through the use of sensors like accelerometers and gyroscopes. This means that activity segmentation, meaning the extraction of continuous sequences of a specific activity, is readily available for many applications. However, so far there has been relatively little work into the detailed analysis of these segments, in spite of the benefits information about the way people perform could offer for many different domains and applications, in particular medicine.

The main aim of this PhD project, therefore, is to develop and investigate suitable methods that will allow for the quantifying of differences in motor performance, as observed through the use of body-worn and pervasive sensors. Working closely with people with Parkinson’s Disease, we intend to apply and evaluated these methods in order to develop suitable outcome measures for motor deficiencies such as Bradykinesia and Dyskinesia.

Cueing for Swallowing in Parkinson’s

This cueing device has been developed as a way to behaviourally manage drooling, which is commonly symptomatic of Parkinson’s Disease. The device was developed through a participatory design process, taking into account the needs of people with Parkinson’s Disease to ensure that the result was something they would want to wear.

Existing cueing devices give auditory or visual cues and can therefore draw unwanted attention, as well as being unsuitable for visual- or hearing-impaired users. Other issues with previous devices include the difficulties that could be presented to users with impaired motor function by an operating switch or the need to change the battery. With this in mind, the device we have developed resembles a wristwatch and gives a vibrating cue so as to minimise attention drawn to the wearer. In addition the device turns on and off automatically, with motion sensors recognising whether it is in use, so that the wearer does not have to operate any buttons or switches.

We are currently in the process of trialling the device with thirty NHS patients.

Part of the Cueing Technology for Parkinson’s project.

Cueing Technology for Parkinsons

Approximately 70% of people with Parkinson’s Disease experience problems with swallowing. The resulting build-up of saliva can cause drooling, which is often a source of embarrassment and puts the person at risk of choking or pneumonia if the saliva gets into the lungs. Therefore, it is important that people who suffer from drooling have a way to combat the problem.

Many therapies offered to tackle this issue work by decreasing saliva production, but this can result in problems relating to eating or oral hygiene. In addition, therapies such as Botox involve injections and can cause discomfort. One form of management that does not cause negative physical side effects is the use of a cueing device, which is worn on the body and reminds users to swallow their saliva by giving them cues at regular intervals, allowing them to manage the drooling behaviourally. However, this form of management is not widely used, and there are numerous issues with available devices, such as that the cues are noticeable to observers, that manually-operated devices are difficult to use, and that the designs are not aesthetically pleasing.

The aim of this project is to investigate the use of cueing to manage drooling in such a way that the cueing device itself is not embarrassing or uncomfortable for the wearer. We have developed a device through a participatory design process, ensuring that the design takes into account the needs and desires of people with Parkinson’s Disease so it is something they wish to use. This is an interdisciplinary project involving speech therapists, old age clinicians, interaction designers and hardware engineers.
Following feedback on the initial prototype, an improved version of the device is being trialled for one month by thirty NHS patients.

See also: Cueing for Swallowing


Funding: National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) £37,018
Researchers: Nick Miller (PI) -Institute of Health and Society, Patrick Olivier (CI), Roisin McNaney, Stephen LindsayKarim Ladha,  Thomas Ploetz, Nils Hammerla, Dan Jackson
Collaborators: Richard Walker – Northumbria NHS Foundation Trust

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